May 2019 — The “Workshop on Monosodium Glutamate and Umami Taste Perception: Nutrition and Central Control Mechanisms” was held at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in São Paulo, Brazil. This workshop is an achievement of the School of Food Engineering (FEA) which includes the Food and Drug Toxicology Group (GTAF), in association with the Center for Research on Obesity and Comorbidities (OCRC) of the Institute of Biology (IB).
The workshop’s objectives were to: 1) strengthen knowledge among scientists about glutamate’s physiological and biochemical functions in the body, and 2) increase knowledge in the area of food safety, particularly in matters related to the safe use of monosodium glutamate (MSG) as a food additive and its role in umami taste (the fifth basic taste).
Biochemical, physiological, nutritional and food safety aspects related to glutamate and MSG were discussed among workshop participants.
Dr. Thiago Araujo dos Reis (Institute of Biology UNICAMP) addressed the biochemistry of glutamate, including the types of receptors for glutamate, metabolism of glutamate in the human body, the discovery of umami as the fifth human taste, and the safety and production of MSG as umami seasoning,
Following, after the presentations by Dr. Andre Schawambach Vieria (UNICAMP), which focused on the blood brain barrier and glutamate transporters, and by Dr. Sandra Lucienei Balbo (UNIOESTE) regarding the induction of obesity with experimental animals, there was a panel discussion. The panel concluded that the MSG-induced obesity model is a good model to study the metabolic problems related to obesity, but has no relation with the intake of MSG as a food additive.
Dr. Ana San Gabriel, secretariat for the International Glutamate Information Service, addressed molecular and physiological mechanisms of taste perception, and specifically umami taste perception and umami’s role in human health. She highlighted recent research showing that the umami taste promotes the regulation of appetite especially in infants. Also, she noted that MSG has been shown to be beneficial in reducing sodium intake when substituted for salt.
Professor Felix G. R. Reyes (School of Food Engineering – UNICAMP) in his presentation emphasized that glutamate is produced in the human body and has an essential role in metabolism. Dr. Reyes noted, “Breastmilk contains a proportionally larger amount of glutamate than all other amino acids present in its composition. That is, nature gave mothers the ability to produce milk with a high glutamate content and this protects the baby from obesity later in life.”
Dr. Reyes also presented the latest information regarding the use of MSG as a safe food additive, including regulatory and scientific support worldwide. Regarding research in mice showing adverse effects when glutamate is injected subcutaneously and in large amounts, this is unlike “exposure to glutamate through the diet, which has no adverse effects in humans.”
The full program and list of presenters can be viewed here.
The symposium was jointly supported by the International Glutamate Information Service (Australia) and the Institute for Glutamate Sciences in South America (Brazil).